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Its been a season of highs a lows

Posted 10th December 2013

Now that the season is over, I thought it would be nice to look back on the highs and lows and give you all a bit more of an insight into how I felt it went!

My biggest highlight of the season and certainly a special milestone for me was reaching my 100th DTM race. It showed the consistent form I have had and the faith that Mercedes-Benz have had in me. I can’t believe I have been with them for 100 races and we’re still going strong, with no plans to end it anytime soon.

The first of my frustrations came at my home race, Brands Hatch. I had started 12th on the grid and had had a pretty strong race to finish on the podium. However, it was then taken away from me due to being one tenth of a second too fast under a yellow flag, a new rule that came in to play this year.

Shortly after that though, I had the first high of my season, at Lausitzring. We had done a few updates on the car, but the speed we had for qualifying was incredible. I can safely say I have never had a car that has been that dominant in qualifying ever in my career.  Ok, I just missed out on getting pole position to one of my teammates, but as a team we were far superior than anyone else. To then win the race gave the team and myself a real boost and we were hoping that would inspire us for the rest of the season.

Unfortunately the race after that was Norisring and that was another low. I did make a mess of it myself, by jumping the start, but the team then did a great job to work the strategy and put me back in the race and we were en-route to a podium finish. However, I ended up in a battle with Edoardo Mortara towards the end of the race. He misjudged the corner and hit the back of me going into turn one, damaging both our cars and losing us positions. A few laps later, I was trying to overtake him and at the last corner, he turned into me and put me into the concrete wall, which ended my race. I had just got myself back in contention for the championship after the win at Lausitzing, but after that retirement, lost a lot of points.

Our next opportunity to have a good race was at the Nurburgring and my two teammates had a great race, taking first and second. Unfortunately my side of the garage made the wrong call with tyre strategy when it rained and I spent most of the race on the wrong tyre and ended up finishing 17th.  It was really disappointing, especially when the performance of my car was obviously good in the wet and my teammates had managed to finish on the podium. To finish that low down and lose that many points in the championship was really disheartening.

At that point I knew my championship was over and we struggled to then find the speed in the car in the second half of the season. We ended up losing points that we should of got and weren’t really capitalizing on the speed we did have at times. I think that’s what was upsetting, that we were giving points away. I know you can’t have a good car all the time, but when you do, you need to make the most of it and we just weren’t doing that.

We finished sixth in the championship, which isn’t where we wanted to be, but I think a lot of it was purely us not making the most of the opportunities that we had. We were never going to win the championship with the car we had, but I think we should have been third if we had been more consistent.

I am pretty happy with the job I did and more often than not, I was the quickest and best-placed Mercedes driver in qualifying and in the race, so personally I am happy with that.

It’s going to be a fresh start now and the homologation is now open, so the cars are going to be fairly new again. There is a lot of work we can do to improve the car and hopefully come back more competitive next year because its pretty hard to have a season like that again!

F1

Apart from my DTM racing, I have also continued to be a test driver for the Vodafone McLaren F1 team and unfortunately they haven’t had the best of seasons either, so hopefully I’m not the bad omen!!  It’s been difficult, we haven’t had the car as good as we wanted, but it has been interesting working and developing an F1 car and also working with McLaren.

I had the opportunity to do the Young Drivers Test at Silverstone earlier in the year. It was nice to get a day in the car but as a test driver it’s never enough and you always want more. It’s been mainly simulator based this year but hopefully when the new regulations come in to play next year, the tests will be after the race and so test drivers might get more chance of being able to help with the development.

Next year is going to be an exciting time for F1 with the regulation changes. We have a lot of work to do, especially in the simulator at the moment, trying to develop this new concept of car. There are significant changes to the chassis and even bigger ones to the power-trains (engines). We will also welcome Kevin Magnusson to the team and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

I think 2014 is going to be a fascinating season for both formulas with the new rules coming into play. I am hoping the start will be as successful as the start of 2012 and will end as it did when I won the championship.

I want to thank everyone for supporting me throughout my career and hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and New Year!!